Category Archives: Disaster Assistance

COVID-19: Finding Information and Resources

Updated: 4/22/2020

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources for Congregations and Members

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have compiled a series of resources for congregational leaders and members. It’s available here: https://www.pcusa.org/covid19/

COVID-19 Legislation Overview: A Guide for Presbyterian Churches and Ministers

OGA releases new web mapping tool to show COVID-19 confirmed cases

Additional Sources of information:

Check these sites regularly, as information is subject to change.

Emergency student loan management enacted during COVID-19 crisis

Original article on presbyterianmission.org

PC(USA)’s Financial Aid for Service: Payments on eligible federal student loans are suspended through Sept. 30

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Melonee Tubb, the associate for Financial Aid for Service, is photographed during worship in the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — New resources from the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Financial Aid for Service provide guidance on how to manage one’s student loans, now that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Melonee Tubb, associate for FAF, said what people need to know right away is that they could be “off the hook’” for their federal student loan debt through Sept. 30.  The new law automatically suspends payments on eligible loans for six months, with no interest accrued.

By law, lenders have until Easter weekend to alert borrowers that their payments have been suspended.

Under the CARES legislation, loans made under the Federal Direct Loan Program that are eligible for suspended payments include Direct, Subsidized, Unsubsidized, PLUS, and Consolidation loans. Payments for loans acquired through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), transferred to the Department of Education, are also eligible.

Tubb said people with a FFELP loan should check immediately because those loans managed by a private bank or institution aren’t eligible for automatic suspension.  Federal Perkins Loans managed by universities and any private loans are also not eligible under the CARES ACT.

“If you are having trouble making payments and have one of these ineligible loans, call your servicer immediately,” she said. “Some servicers are offering additional emergency deferment or forbearance options.”

The bottom line: Tubb encourages those with student debt to contact their servicer to find out more about how the new law will impact them. For example, Tubb said anyone working towards public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) or loan rehabilitation will get additional relief under the CARES legislation.

“Their suspended payments will be treated as if the borrower made the payments and count toward the 120 payments necessary for forgiveness,” she said.

Additional information on how the CARES Act might impact your federal student loans and tips on how to manage student loan debt during emergencies can be downloaded here.


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Presbytery Council Recommendations for Worship & Meetings

Dear Family in Christ,

I bring you greetings from the Presbytery Council, eighteen wise leaders who have been elected to attend to the overall health and wellbeing of the Presbytery of Ohio Valley, and to act as a Commission of the Presbytery between Assemblies.

The Council met via Zoom video-conference today to address the evolving COVID-19 situation. It was the unanimous opinion of the Council to recommend that sessions and congregations follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that all in-person worship and meetings of ten or more people be cancelled through May 10, 2020 (eight weeks from the beginning of the CDC guidelines).  Out of an abundance of caution, we also recommend that congregations of fewer that ten worshippers adopt the same practice, as many of our folks are in a higher-risk category and should be staying home as much as possible. One member of the Council, the Rev. Deborah Fortel, noted that “as an older member of society, I recognize that my job is to be careful and stay home and healthy to avoid putting additional burdens on the medical system at this time.”

This is difficult news, both to give and to receive, but we believe it is vital to the health and safety of our members, friends, and communities.  Another member of the Council, Rev. Kevin Fleming, reminded us that this is now one of the ways that we can embody the second great commandment, to “love our neighbor as we love ourself.”

Some congregations will be able to offer worship online, mostly through facebook live. This is a good option for those who have the means to do so. The Presbyterian Mission Agency will be hosting a webinar tomorrow, March 19, at 12:00pm EDT / 11:00am CDT on adapting worship for streaming. You can find more information here: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/1001-to-host-zoom-conversation-thursday-on-how-to-stream-worship-services/.

Producing and providing online technology may be difficult for some of our churches and pastors.  Later this week, I will send out a list of churches who are providing online worship, along with the links, so that anyone who wishes might join in.  We are also thinking about ways to connect our presbytery and its people through Holy Week and Easter. Please stay tuned…

The Council will meet next week as well, and we will continue to address the situation as it evolves, including the financial implications that our congregations are likely to face.

As Rev. Felipe Martinez said to the members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Columbus: Our plans to weather this storm won’t be perfect or polished, but they will be our faithful effort to remain connected with one another. We need to feel that we’re there for one another. 

Please know that the Presbytery Council is praying for you and your congregations. And know, as well, that in life and in death, and in all the circumstances of life, we belong to God. And we belong to one another. Thanks be to God for these blessed connections.

Peace and all good,

The Rev’d. Susan C. McGhee
Executive Presbyter
The Presbytery of Ohio Valley

Presbyterian Disaster Relief Project: 10,000 Hygiene Kits in 5 Years!

Calling for Hygiene kits at our March 5th Assembly:

When a flood, wildfire, or hurricane devastates a community, people scramble to deal with the chaos and to recover.   They need practical help – fast.

Our congregations can make a difference by contributing items for hygiene kits.  The Presbytery of Ohio Valley and Mid Kentucky Presbytery started packing disaster relief kits in 2016.  Together with Western KY Presbytery we can reach our 2020 goal of 2,000 hygiene kits.   Then, we’ll celebrate an impressive milestone: 10,000 hygiene kits in five years!

Each hygiene kit in a one-gallon zip lock bag includes:

  • 1 hand towel – not microfiber
  • 1 washcloth – not microfiber
  • wide tooth comb
  • 1 nail clipper
  • 1 bar of soap – unscented, bath size in wrapper
  • 1 toothbrush – in original package (Toothpaste is not requested.)
  • 10 Band-Aids

Please bring hygiene supplies to our next presbytery assembly on Thursday, March 5 at the Mitchell Presbyterian Church. Volunteers will deliver our hygiene kits and supplies to Fairlawn Presbyterian Church in Columbus.  Fairlawn will take them to Louisville for packing and shipping.

Contact the Rev. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick at Fairlawn (812) 372-3882, erkirkpatrick@nullatt.net for information.

Thank you for caring for God’s people in need!

PDA responds to Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on September 1, 2019 and stalled over the islands for 24 hours, causing massive damage. So far, it is reported that 27 lives have been lost.

PDA is working with partners in the Bahamas to respond to immediate needs with a solidarity grant. Presbyteries in the U.S. are assessing the need and PDA stands ready to assist as needed.

If you would like to support PDA’s response, please designate gifts to DR000194 online or by check with “DR000194-Dorian” on the memo line to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

For more information about Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, click here.

Presbyterians aid vulnerable Puerto Ricans threatened with displacement

One Great Hour of Sharing gifts help deedless residents secure their longtime homes

By Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service | Photos by Rich Copley

The original article may be found here.

Mariolga Juliá-Pacheco, coordinator of special projects for the Martin Peña Channel Land Trust, leads a tour for staff members of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

LOUISVILLE — Even before flooding from Hurricane Maria destroyed their home’s contents in 2017, Waleska García Castro and her family faced a human-made threat that could have caused them an even greater disruption.

This family, along with others residing near the Martin Peña Channel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, did not have a deed to their dwelling, and they were looking at the possibility of displacement.

This threat stemmed from plans to dredge the polluted channel and make other improvements to the waterway. Consequently, property values would likely increase dramatically in this community near San Juan’s financial district, airport and universities. The land would be ripe for speculation and gentrification, and the deedless residents could be forced to leave. Some families have lived in this community for five generations.

García Castro and other community members are implementing a strategy that will enable them to remain in their homes and enjoy the benefits of the revitalized canal. One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are supporting this effort.

The community formed the Martin Peña Channel Land Trust, which has acquired title to a 200-acre tract that is home to 1,500 families. While the trust owns the land, individuals can obtain deeds that give them surface rights to their homes.

The property protections give García Castro a feeling of “security” and “tranquility,” she said. “Our community is secured for future generations.”

García Castro lives with her parents and a niece. She works as a nail technician and is a land trust board member. “I have been here all of my life,” she said. “These are my people.”

While determined to keep their homes, community members said they do not oppose the channel’s revitalization.

“We want to get the channel back, but we don’t want this to be at the expense of our displacement,” said Lyvia Rodríguez, executive director of the land trust. “We want to be in control of our future, and we want to be here.”

One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping residents along the Martin Peña Channel in Puerto Rico remain in their homes and enjoy the benefits of a revitalized channel.

The land trust, she explained, “will ensure that a new generation of residents have the opportunity to live along a restored Martín Peña Channel.” The community will own the land in perpetuity, but residents may transfer ownership of their houses through inheritance or sale. In addition to securing land rights, the land trust aspires to tackle other problems, such as sporadic electrical service, mosquito infestations, inadequate transportation and food insecurity.

The community is still reeling from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria. “In the hurricane, over 1,000 houses lost their roofs, and 75 houses were destroyed,” said Mariolga Juliá-Pacheco, special projects coordinator for the land trust. “We were able to supply tarps, first aid supplies, food and water.”

While land trust leaders are excited about improving the community’s quality of life, Juliá-Pacheco said there is still much work to do to ensure that residents acquire surface rights deeds. She emphasizes that the One Great Hour of Sharing grant is helping to accomplish this. A community facilitator, whose salary is partially paid by the grant, is helping families through the tedious process of acquiring deeds for their homes.

Without this guidance, some families would struggle to prove their eligibility for a deed and complete the paperwork needed to obtain one, Juliá-Pacheco said. “You may have been living in your house without papers for 60 years, and suddenly you need to have them. It’s a long process. You need accompaniment.”

All three Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministries supported by One Great Hour of Sharing gifts — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of People — are working alongside the land trust.

Juliá-Pacheco hopes the work of the land trust will be a model for other communities in Puerto Rico. The threat of gentrification, she noted, looms large as new construction projects emerge in the aftermath of the hurricane. Some Puerto Ricans are afraid they can no longer afford to live in the communities that have been their home for years, she said. “It’s really a big fear in communities across the island.”

Yet the support of One Great Hour of Sharing has helped assuage these fears for families protected by the land trust, Juliá-Pacheco said. “We are grateful for the generous giving and for this grant.”

In most Presbyterian congregations, the One Great Hour of Sharing offering is received on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.


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